It’s a typical day in Michele Manos’s second grade class and her students are studying reading, writing, math and…manatees? For thirty-six years, Manos, a teacher at the Kew-Forest School in Forest Hills, New York, has incorporated lessons fostering respect towards animals into her curriculum. The manatee project, a science lesson, teaches children about this gentle, endangered species and gives them the opportunity to help provide sanctuary. In a subsequent poetry lesson the children write “very emotional poetry about the manatee,” describes Manos. A bake sale raises money for organizations involved in animal welfare and is linked to a math lesson highlighting currency and business skills. Manos says, “I try to weave my message about animals into everything.”
Increasingly, Manos is not alone in her work. Thanks, in large part, to the efforts of the National Association for Humane and Environmental Education, Youth Education Division of the Humane Society of the United States (NAHEE), education on humane issues has become more available to teachers. Founded in 1973 after a Connecticut land gift from Broadway and film star, Norma Terris, NAHEE raises awareness of humane and environmental issues through education. The organization publishes the KIND (Kids in Nature’s Defense) newsletter, which is distributed to 35,000 classrooms. Geared toward grades K-6, KIND news offers a variety of animal and environmental awareness articles that teachers can integrate into their lessons. Many teachers are sponsored by NAHEE’s “Adopt-A-Classroom” program, which enables individuals and businesses to donate a year’s supply of KIND newsletters. Heidi O’Brien, Communications Coordinator, explains, “KIND news strives to inspire kids to be kind to animals and to give them the tools they need to help them.” KIND also sports a celebrity column, “Look Who’s Kind,” spotlighting animal friendly celebs, such as Alec Baldwin, Jane Goodall and Jenna Elfman. Says O’Brien, “We think celebrities can be great role models.”
The response has been overwhelming. According to O’Brien, 98% of teachers report that KIND news has increased their students’ knowledge of humane issues and their concern about animal welfare. NAHEE has been so successful with its K-6 programs that they are developing their teen programs. This year, a new award, “Humane Teen of the Year,” will be presented.
Cheryl Mills, Founder and Chair of Friends of Homeless Animals in Princeton, New Jersey, an animal rescue and welfare organization, has taken humane education to a different level. In addition to running seminars at local community centers, Mills has brought humane education to the Rock Brook School for Learning and Communication Disabilities. Accompanying Mills is therapy dog, Gaylin, a Golden retriever-husky mix. Mills observed early on that the children enjoyed reading to Gaylin and children who wouldn’t normally read would read when Gaylin was present. Part of Therapy Dog International, Gaylin attends a full school day where he not only inspires children to read, but also helps to stimulate their senses. Mills, a lifelong pet owner says, “you start your love of animals as a child. Pets can sometimes reach where adults cannot.” She adds, “A pet can really help a child to both relax and excel.”
Back at The Kew Forest School, Mrs. Manos explains she’s “just trying to build empathy and compassion in the children.” Because, she adds, “it spills out into all other parts of their lives.” There’s a lesson worth learning.
Friends of Homeless Animals: www.be-a-friend.org
In the Name of Healing
“Until one has loved an animal,” wrote Anatole France, “a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” Pet owners would agree, but what happens when one loses a beloved pet? According to Dr. Alison Buchalter, Co-Founder and Co-Director of The Pet Bereavement Center in Manhattan, “Your pet is often your closest companion or a dear member of your family. It is normal to experience sadness, loneliness and sorrow…” The Pet Bereavement Center specializes in cognitive behavioral treatment for individuals suffering from the loss of a pet. The center is part of the Institute for Behavior Therapy, the oldest private cognitive behavioral center in the country.
The center counsels children and adults, offering individual and group therapy. For children, explains Buchalter, “the loss of a pet is often their first experience with death” and their reaction can be a precursor for how they will manage future loss and grief. The center assists with issues such as coping with a pet’s chronic illness, stolen or missing pets, euthanasia decisions, and choosing medical providers.
For more information about The Pet Bereavement Center call (212) 692-9288.
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